Lakers-Spurs Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 20, 2013
The San Antonio Spurs won't be facing Kobe Bryant when they begin their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. It's their 12th postseason series, but familiar foe Bryant is absent after tearing his Achilles tendon on April 12. Are the Spurs going to miss competing against their chief nemesis when the series starts Sunday? ''Not really,'' Manu Ginobili said. ''Of course, playing against him makes you better, that's for sure. He challenges you on every possession, but I'm not going to miss him, that's for sure.'' San Antonio has enough of its own worries. The Spurs enter the playoffs having lost three straight and seven of 10 while Ginobili and Tony Parker have dealt with leg injuries. Bryant's injury capped a tumultuous regular season that included the firing of Mike Brown, the courtship of Phil Jackson before the hiring of Mike D'Antoni, purported infighting among players and injuries to Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. Los Angeles responded by winning five straight to close the regular season, including a 91-86 victory over San Antonio in its first game without Bryant. The late push helped the Lakers capture the seventh seed and earn a matchup with the second-seeded Spurs. ''Of course, I've think they've done a great job,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ''The coaching change was a long time ago, but they're a different team and that's to be expected. Without Kobe, there has to be a different emphasis and they've made that transition very well and played very successfully.'' The Lakers received some good news with Nash expected to play after missing the final eight games of the season with a hamstring/hip injury. Nash leads the team with 6.7 assists per game. ''Mentally, I'm chomping at the bit and physically I'm getting there,'' Nash said. ''I'm very optimistic I'll be able to play on Sunday.'' Nash's presence should help the team's transition to an interior game without Bryant. Howard and Gasol combined for 33 points and 35.5 rebounds in the final two games without Bryant. ''It's a new team, it's a different team,'' Parker said. ''They play different. Everything goes through Dwight so he's going to try to draw a double team and they have got shooters. Steve Nash is going to have the ball a lot more. It's going to be a lot different.'' Howard can expect added attention from the Spurs when they employ the Hack-a-Howard strategy that Popovich first used to force Shaquille O'Neal to the free-throw line. ''If they want to do that the whole series, God bless them,'' Howard said. ''There's nothing I can do about it but go up there and shoot the free throws. Even if I make them, they're still going to do it.'' How many times the Spurs will do that, is unclear. ''I don't know, you should ask Pop,'' Parker said, smiling, ''But a lot, if I had to bet money. People are going to scream at him in L.A., it will be funny.'' Howard shot 49.2 percent on free throws in the regular season, his second-lowest career total behind the 49.1 he shot last season. He was 8 for 17 in the Lakers' recent victory over the Spurs, but had 26 points and 17 rebounds. ''My concern is what I can control on the defensive end and then on the offensive end, just dominate,'' Howard said. ''If they foul me, they foul me. We're going to make them pay.'' The Spurs are aware of the Lakers' inside presence and Parker hopes to raise the tempo to keep Howard and Gasol from digging in defensively. ''We definitely want to push it,'' Parker said. ''I definitely want to try to get some easy baskets because once they set they have a pretty solid defense. Definitely going to try to push it and get some easy points.'' Parker had four points on 1-for-10 shooting and eight assists in the Spurs' recent loss to the Lakers in his second game back after missing four straight due to a sore neck, ankle and shin. ''The last time we played LA, I played the worst game of my season,'' Parker said. ''I had a rough shooting night and everything was hurting. But this is a great opportunity for me to bounce back and play better. I'm pretty sure I'll play better than the last game.'' The Spurs played that game without Ginobili, who missed nine straight with a strained right hamstring before returning for the team's season finale against Minnesota. Ginobili said his health and conditioning are good, but his timing is still off. ''I'm going to try to contribute in any way or form I can,'' he said. ''I'm probably not going to be a factor scoring wise, I'm just trying to be solid, create for my teammates, play good D and do the little things.'' Even with Bryant out, the Lakers and Spurs still have one of the league's more spirited rivalries. The teams combined to win seven straight Western Conference titles from 1999-2005. The teams met five times during the postseason from 1999-2004, but have not played since the Lakers beat the Spurs 4-1 in the 2008 West finals. ''It's a great rivalry with them,'' Parker said. ''When I first arrived in San Antonio, that's all we talked about, that's all they talked to me (about). The whole first half talk was about how can we beat the Lakers, Kobe and Shaq. It's great to play against them. ''I'm sure the whole city and all our Spurs fans are excited. It's a great challenge and a greater opportunity to do well.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Another young 49er, Kaleb Ramsey, retires from NFL

Saints GM: Drew Brees’ contract situation is not a ‘distraction’

Tim Tebow: ‘I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in’

Olympic athletes warned about Rio's 'human crap' waters

T.J. Ward: Broncos defense doesn’t care who’s playing QB

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tokyo already dealing with rising costs for 2020 Olympics

Bears first-round pick Leonard Floyd carted off practice field

Report: Bills and Tyrod Taylor continue to talk extension

Report: Title contender planning to poach Curry from Warriors

Fitzpatrick on negotiations: I wouldn’t wish it on anybody

NBA players to fund health insurance for former players

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

Cam Talbot thinks the Oilers are close to making the playoffs

The new era of WWE SmackDown has liftoff

Vlade Divac: Cousins ‘most dominant player in the world’

Wild offer to make Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy' new goal song

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

Canucks don't dismiss acquiring player with past issues

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ordered to pay $900K to auction house

Six potential landing spots for Nick Foles

Jack Nicklaus puzzled by Tiger Woods' woes, golf absence

Brown responds to Marshall's high-stakes challenge

Seven most mind-boggling NFL contracts of 2016

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker